Game-changers and rib-breakers
April 2, 2009
"Hi Derick, I'm Brian." © Getty Images
Sebastien Chabal Gavin Henson Juan Martin Hernandez Josh Lewsey Luke McAlister Chris Masoe Johann Muller Mathew Tait
Rugby is a sport of skill, stamina, pace and precision. And people getting hit, hard. As much as any fan may eulogise about soft hands and outside breaks, at their core, rugby fans and players alike revel in the sight of a thumping tackle and a pole-axed player. Here is our pick of the best.
The Caveman cometh
Ah, Sebastien Chabal. An enigma to match Cantona and Michalak, the giant French back-row come lock has thrilled and confounded in equal measure on the international stage. Is his work-rate high enough? Is he a good enough scrummager in the second-row? Should he be an impact player?
All of these thoughts could have been playing through the head of All Black No.8 Chris Masoe as he collected the ball from over his head during New Zealand's win over France at Auckland in 2007, before "Sebas" decided to relieve him of any unwanted air in his lungs. Flying out of the line Chabal flattened the 6' 1'' 233lb Masoe, leaving the All Black scrabbling unsteadily to his feet. Next in line was Ali Williams, who left the field soon after with a broken jaw courtesy of the rampaging Chabal.
An appointment with the Chiropractor
Samoa centre Brian Lima is a legend of the game, the only man to play at five World Cups and a popular figure the world over after club stints in New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland and Japan. He's less popular with Springbok fly-half Derick Hougaard.
During the 2003 Rugby World Cup Hougaard received a horrible pass from scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen, taking the ball above his head and opening up his rib-cage for a colossal hit by the aptly nicknamed "Chiropractor". Despite being hit so hard that he left the camera frame for a time, Hougaard took the spoils on the day, his 21-point haul coming from a full house and forming the backbone of a 60-10 win.
A baptism of fire
Wales's 2005 Grand Slam got underway with a much-anticipated showdown with England at the Millennium Stadium. Making his debut for England was 19-year-old Newcastle centre Mathew Tait, an elusive runner and big prospect for the future. Tait's involvement that afternoon was limited to being bullied around the park by Wales' inside-centre Gavin Henson however, the Osprey putting in two mammoth hits on the baby-faced debutant.
Henson's hits set the tone for the Welsh performance and his late winning penalty put them on the road to a Grand Slam, while Tait was left in the international wilderness. Following his mauling at the hands of Henson, he was out of an England shirt until June 2006.
Stop! Hammer time
Hailing from the famous Quinnell dynasty that produced Welsh internationals Derek, Scott and Craig, Gavin Quinnell enters out list thanks to his unorthodox method of taking Gloucester scrum-half Peter Richards in to touch.
While playing for Worcester against their West Country rivals Gloucester in 2006, Quinnell caught hold of the nippy Richards and swung him by his collar, hammer-throw style, in to touch.
Swept aside by The Magician
Leicester wing Alesana Tuilagi has been causing mayhem in the Premiership and Europe for several years, his considerable bulk and searing pace presenting a problem for any side in the game.
During the 2007 Heineken Cup quarter-final against Stade Francais Tuilagi was in typically bullish form. As the Tigers powered further into the ascendancy he raced clear of the Stade defence, cutting a line in to the corner and looking certain to score. Arriving just in time however was Juan Martin Hernandez, playing at fullback, who in one of the finest examples of a cover tackle hammered the flying Tuilagi in to touch. Superb all round.
A big hit can bring about a big change in momentum for a side - as evidenced by Sharks lock Johann Muller's towering tackle on Luke McAlister of the Blues during the 2005 Super 12. As part of the defensive line, Muller levelled the onrushing McAlister, producing a turnover and breakaway for his side.
Any game of rugby is littered with personal battles, although not many get so resoundingly settled as the one that erupted between England's Josh Lewsey and Wallaby fullback Mat Rogers during England's summer tour in 2003.
Ex-rugby league star Rogers had been nibbling at Lewsey all afternoon, eventually aiming a punch at the Wasps back. Later, as the ball was shipped wide on an Australian attack, Lewsey put and exclamation mark on their tiff by clattering Rogers as he looked for an overlap. As Rogers hit the deck, he could probably have heard the gasps from the front rows of supporters.
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